El Perro Del Mar: Heart of the matter

21 Feb

“We’re going to forget / Everything that we knew / All the people / And everything that we did too / All that we said / And all that we didn’t do,” writes Swedish pop songstress Sarah Assbring aka El Perro Del Mar on her third album, Love is Not Pop.

It’s a touching poem and also the key to understanding her latest album about a romantic relationship falling apart.

“One of the biggest inspirations I got before working on the album was from a Bernardo Bertolucci movie called Last Tango in Paris,” says Assbring from a café close to her apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden. “The title of the album is a direct quote from that movie and in this scene, Marlon Brando is almost saying those words.

“That’s what happens when a long relationship (falls apart), which was the case with my relationship. All the plans you share and the future is gone when the relationship is over. It’s sad, but you can also choose to see it as very beautiful. All the opportunities you had at that time – they were real. The time we share with a person is as beautiful and real as any other relationship in your lifetime will be.

“I feel that coming out of a relationship, I don’t really believe in making promises for a lifetime, I believe in making a promise for a day and making that promise new everyday. That’s also what this album is about, enjoying and being happy for the time you had together and moving on.”

The openness and wisdom of El Perro Del Mar is quite moving, and she’s as thoughtful and creative in conversation as she is in her music. From her self-titled debut which combined 60s girl group with eerie production and vocals filled with sadness; to the ethereal solitary second album, From the Valley to the Stars, her latest offering Love is Not Pop, was co-produced with Rasmus Hägg from Swedish electronic duo Studio.

“I met Rasmus through mutual friends but we were not close,” Assbring explains. “I’d been talking with him about some collaboration but we never really knew in what way. When I starting the idea of this album, I knew I wanted to co-produce it with someone and the only person I could consider was him. I don’t know why, but it was just a feeling I had.

“With my second album, I think I went as far as I possibly could working solo. I had reached as far as I could with my own head and I wanted to know what would happen if I took my ideas to someone else.”

The result is something more plush, rhythmic and sonically deeper than any of her previous work.

“It didn’t turn out the way I planned and it didn’t turn out the way he planned either. We’re both theoretical, and talked references and about textures and colours a lot before even starting the recording. But when we finally started working, we knew it was going somewhere we did not plan.

“That’s the part I really enjoyed because I’d been a perfectionist and very obsessed with being in control, and finding I was not in control and the music was leading in different ways, was a very satisfying feeling.”

[Edited version published in The Wire, The West Australian, Issue 21, 15.10.09]

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